AGRIBUSINESS: Farmers ditch maize for passion fruits farming

Kipkoech Rono, a passion fruit farmer at one of his farms in Uasin Gishu County. PHOTO/Edmond Kipngeno, The Scholar Media Africa.

With the unstable prices for maize and wheat, farmers in Uasin Gishu County are venturing into other options. 

Some have ditched the two crops for passion fruits and avocado. 

Uasin Gishu is among the largest producers of maize and wheat in Kenya. 

Farmers interviewed by said that the high cost of production frustrations as a result of unstable prices have made them shift to alternative crops. 

The said passion fruit farming is more  lucrative. 

At Moiben, Kipkoech Rono, has ventured into passion fruit  farming.

He started the venture in 2018 with only 3 acres. 

Rono says he made the bold step after maize prices deteriorated.

A total of 14 acres of his land is now under passion fruits.

He anticipates to reap big by the end of the year 2021.

“I had to sell my maize at a throw away price to venture into passion fruits,” said Rono. 

Rono invested approximately Sh. 400,000 as capital and he has no regrets.

“I’m expecting to get about Ksh3 Million from the passion fruits that I planted this year,” noted Rono. 

He says he harvests 1,200 Kilogrammes of passion per acre, per week.

He then sells at an average of Sh.110 per kilo depending on the market.  

Mark Up

Rono said that there is beam of hope as Mark Up aids farmers in the search of market for passion fruits. 

“We are optimistic that Mark Up will help us be able to  access a better market. Marketing is a challenge,” he said. 

“If we get enough water in the County, we will be able to enhance our farming thus our produce will  improve.”

He urges youths to engage in farming activities, saying that it pays well and it can improve their livelihoods.

Rono noted that farming requires determination and dedication of time without any rush for cash.

He said that the Market Access Upgrade (MARK UP) programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by United Nations Industrial Development Orgnisation will help farmers benefit from their farming.

They will be  assisted to access markets of their products.  

In Kapseret Sub county, a group of 15 members of Berur Self Help Group, were pruning their passion fruits when this writer visited them.

They were anticipating to make a breakthrough after making a switch from the other crops.  

Richard Kiprop who is the group’s chairperson said they came together in 2016 and ventured into passion fruit farming.

The group received the passion fruit seedlings from the County Government of Uasin Gishu through the department of Agriculture. 

They are expecting to reap big by the end of this year.

“We are expecting to harvest our passion fruits and be able to purchase a plot and develop it,” said Kiprop. 

However, marketing their produce has been a challenge due to the effects of Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have been affected by the poor prices of farm produce. Markets have been very poor,” he said. 

They expressed optimism that Mark Up will be of great benefit to them.

“Our initiative was to bridge the unemployment gap among the youths,” noted Kiprop.

He says before Covid-19 pandemic, they were selling their passion fruits at Sh.100 per Kg but the prices fell to Ksh.35.

They hope that Mark up will play a pivotal role in enhancing markets for their products.

They asked the County Government of Uasin Gishu to drill more boreholes since they face challenges in accessing water.

At the moment

Presently, there is a deficit of the passion fruits in the country. 

Farmers have been called upon to venture into modern farming methods which include irrigation to ensure there is increase in production. 

Passion fruit is usually planted in the months of August and September.

Farmers from the region say there is a huge market for the fruits outside the country as opposed to locally. 

Moses Keitany, one of the passion fruits farmers, asked the county government to provide nursery beds and irrigation mechanisms to  farmers.

“I ask the County Government of Uasin Gishu to come up with a budget to boost passion fruit farmers,” appealed Keitany. 

“Uasin Gishu County produces fewer Kilogrammes of passion yet as a country we need over 10 tonnes to export to Uganda and the United Kingdom. 

I am calling upon farmers to plant more passion fruits because there is a ready market for the produce,” added Keitany. 

Ismael Asowa who is the County Government of Uasin Gishu Agri-business officer says 120 youth groups have received passion fruit seeds to be planted in a one acre piece of land per group.

“We are expecting to have a high volume of harvest,” said Asowa.  

Modern technology

One of the singled out technologies is the use of the drip irrigation in passion fruit farming which has increased the produce. 

Linet Luvai, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisations (UNIDO) deputy representative said they recently launched a five year programme framework dubbed  ‘country partnership’ to  aid the governments better the implementing their strategies.

Luvai says they work closely with private partners and government agencies to ensure that there is development.

“We are able to promote youth entrepreneurs within the agriculture sector to access jobs,” said Luvai.

Luvai reiterated that they have identified key priority sectors that they will support in agro processing and market access for the farmers. 

“We also know that agriculture is the biggest employer of the youth,” added Luvai.

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